Do tooth-whitening toothpastes actually work?
Most tooth-whitening toothpastes that are available on the market work by being abrasive. The abrasive properties of the toothpaste can remove extrinsic tooth stains. These abrasive agents can include calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, and hydrated aluminium oxides. Some whitening toothpastes additionally contain either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.
The abrasive properties of these toothpastes can gradually remove tooth staining, however, once the staining is removed they can prove to be abrasive to the enamel. I would only recommend whitening toothpastes to people who struggle with heavy stains, such as smoking stain in between their 6 monthly scale and clean visits. The whitening toothpaste I usually recommend to these patients is Colgate Optic White. The reason I would recommend this whitening toothpaste over other whitening toothpastes would be because it contains Hydrogen Peroxide which can also lighten the teeth that have intrinsic stains as well as extrinsic stains. See our blog post ‘How to combat Extrinsic & Intrinsic tooth discolouration’ for more information on extrinsic vs intrinsic tooth staining.
In general, with any whitening toothpaste, I would not recommend it as your regular toothpaste due to its abrasive properties which can be damaging long term. I would recommend you alternate it with your regular toothpaste, either using your regular toothpaste one per day then the whitening toothpaste once per day, or using a whitening tooth paste for a week, then swapping back to your regular toothpaste the other week. Once you are happy that your staining has improved, cease the whitening toothpaste and return to your regular toothpaste.
When would I not recommend whitening toothpastes?
- If your teeth are not stained then I would not recommend a whitening toothpaste.
- If you suffer from dental erosion, then I would not recommend whitening toothpaste. Abrasive toothpaste should be avoided as much as possible if you suffer from dental erosion. Colgate Pronamel is very low in abrasives therefore is a suitable toothpaste if you suffer from dental erosion.
- If you are pregnant, avoid whitening toothpastes that contain peroxides.
- If you suffer from sensitive teeth. Tooth whitening can temporarily cause a bit of tooth sensitivity, therefore if your teeth are already sensitive, I would avoid whitening toothpastes.
Written by Emily Johnson – Oral Health Therapist